by Mark Trescowthick - GUI Computing
Leave to one side what's been reviewed in our special MultiMedia section in this issue for a moment - there are a couple of basics that need to be addressed. For VB developers, probably the first MultiMedia tool ought to be CCF/Cursors. Even Microsoft found this indispensable in Encarta, and no wonder… a multimedia application that uses only the standard, boring, Windows cursors is not really up with the pace.
Last month, I had a 'first look' at MediaKnife/VBX. It's now shipping, and if sprites are a requirement, then MediaKnife is the way to go. Using its own mkWindow control, MediaKnife lets you define and draw panels off screen, then display them in a trice. Unfortunately, you can't make other controls children of this enhanced picture box control.
MediaKnife's elder sibling, ImageKnife/VBX is amongst the best of the many standard graphics controls available (along with other luminaries such as ImageMan and the Accusoft Image Libraries). One of these controls is almost certainly essential for any serious multimedia development. If it needs to be data-aware, then ImageKnife is the obvious choice. If not, then each control has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Moving away from VB, Windows Help has often been seen as the poor relation of multimedia tools (often overshadowed by the Multimedia Viewer, as much as anything else). But, if you need a lean application, if you need one that has effectively no runtime library support required (which Windows system doesn't contain WINHELP.EXE?), the Help is often the only choice. With a decent front-end tool (such as Help Magician or the HDK), help is most often a viable choice - so long as the application isn't too complex. Beware Help's atrocious programming support, though.
The typical multimedia developer will also need some pretty cometent image manipulation and conversion tools. Corel 3.x is a good start (if a little expensive). Another tool I use a good deal is MicroGrafx' PhotoMagic... it has the best bitmap scaling in the business, along with some other handy tools. Another retail offering (and this time Australian) is the recently-released ThumbsUp! This great little app is mostly about viewing thumbnails of all images (and fonts) on disk, and as such is almost invaluable. But it also contains a very full suite of conversion tools. In file conversions and screen capture, the shareware PaintShop Pro stands almost alone. We couldn't live without it.
The range of MultiMedia tools is growing almost by the hour…